An open call

I realize that there has been quite a bit of dissatisfaction and discontent going around. I understand that people are fearful at the way they think the narrative is being shaped. I myself am deeply saddened to think that places that are supposed to be safe for me no longer feel safe.

I’m sending out this open call to white kadkadua and to white allies to please give us the time and the space we need to process through this and to create a space where we can share our stories and our feelings. I’m asking folks to respect our need to move at our own pace. We are conversing with each other and we are working towards solutions that work for us.

I and those who stand with me would be thankful if you would allow us the time we need.

Update: A PoC led space has been opened at the SAFE blog. A decision was made to open separate threads for affected PoC and affected non-PoC with an eye towards opening up the space for intersectional discussions. With regards to the RHB situation: in case my position on this has not yet been made clear. Harassment and abuse is harassment and abuse. We can’t do anything more beyond letting people know the truth.  

Our main concern is moving forward. All victims need to be supported and need to be heard regardless of race, creed or gender. Those interested in joining hands together to support victims, and those who are interested in building bridges of support are welcome to join the discussion. 

Standing Up and Speaking Truth

I believe that no one has any right to dictate to me when I should speak, where I should speak or how I should speak on any given subject. I also believe that questioning a person on the choices they make is breach of personhood. In matters pertaining to decisions about one’s profession, that questioning is a clear breach of professionalism. I also want to reiterate that if the work under discussion is a work that I have not read in its completed form, it is not right for me to criticize the work or condemn it.

I write the above because this was at the heart of the conflict that took place between Alex Dally MacFarlane and myself on the 19th of July and it was also this conflict that led to Requires Hate breaking all ties with me.

Alex has spoken in public of a conflict that took place between her and myself over Tricia Sullivan’s book, Shadowboxer. I had clearly stated my position on the work. In separate emails I clearly told both Alex and RH that I had no intention of passing judgment on Shadowboxer. I did not feel it was my place to criticize Shadowboxer on the basis of its Thailand setting as I was not familiar with Thai culture and if any public criticism of this aspect of the work should arise, it should come first from Thai readers.

Because of my position and because I had publicly supported Tricia Sullivan, I was accused of being complicit in racism and transphobia.

Regardless of this accusation, I continue to stand by what I have said. I cannot condemn a work based on a manuscript that has since been rewritten.

I am aware that things have been said about me. I am not sure what has been said and I do not know with how many this conflict has been shared. I had, at first, made a decision not to talk about this conflict as I valued Alex Dally MacFarlane’s work.

Tori Truslow who is one of the Nine Worlds organizers is Alex’s partner and it was clear that she was aware of what had taken place between Alex and me. I did hope that she would keep an objective position on this matter. It will seem illogical to many, but the position Alex and Tori occupied in UK fandom made me anxious and fearful when I went to Nine Worlds.

At that time I was afraid of Alex. I did not know what to expect of her and I did not know what to expect of her partner, Tori. I hoped that the issue could be resolved in a professional manner. At Nine Worlds, Alex gave me the cut and I realized that this issue was not going to be resolved. I later heard that a number of people had been made aware of this conflict. Again, I do not know what was said or how it was framed, but I am now in no doubt as to Alex’s and Tori’s hostility towards me.

How does this all connect to RH?

After the conflict between Alex and myself, I sent RH an email telling her of this and saying that she should feel free to cut ties with me as I had burned bridges with Alex. In response, RH clearly questioned my decisions on my friendships and my refusal to condemn those who had supported me and those who I counted as friends. She then cut off ties with me.

In all our communications, I had always supported RH in her desire to build a career as a writer. I respected her descision to maintain secrecy and her choice to take on a writing pseudonym. I do not know what RH’s real name is. I also do not know Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s real identity. I do know that Benjanun was a persona that RH donned in order to achieve her desire of being a published writer.

After Worldcon, I was aware that something was going on, but not exactly what. There was talk of whisper campaigns, but I paid no attention to that as I did not have the energy to deal with controversies. I do remember Rachel Swirsky asking me about Benjanun’s identity and I told her that if this had already been confirmed by others I did not see why she felt the need to ask me for confirmation.

After that, I was even more sporadic online as we were switching servers and access to the internet was quite spotty.

On the 14th of October, I was surprised to find a message from Nick Mamatas on my blog. He wrote that if I wanted to know what the latest controversy was about, I should get in touch with him. I wasn’t too keen on controversy, so I told him that I didn’t have regular net access but I would get in touch as soon as I could. I was also surprised to find a number of hostile messages from people who told me they were disappointed or disgusted with me.

When I got back online on the 16th of October, I got in touch with Nick Mamatas and asked him what he knew. I told him I had received a number of angry messages and I was confused as I was completely out of the loop. Did he know anything?

I had heard that Benjanun had been outed in public by Nick Mamatas, but Nick told me that Benjanun was spreading the rumor that I was the one who had outed her. I told Nick that this was an untrue accusation. I thanked him for taking the time to ask me about this and tried to think of what I could do.

I will admit that I was quite disheartened. Among the messages I received was one that accused me of sabotaging and destroying Southeast Asian writers. It is an accusation that has no ground in truth. My work has always been directed towards creating more visibility for writers coming from the margins. That these kinds of lies were being fed to the vulnerable is a deed that I consider unconscionable.

It was then that I decided that I couldn’t just wait for things to die down. There was much more at stake than myself. I reached out to people I trusted and decided to write this post.

I’ve heard that Requires Hate a.k.a. Benjanun Sriduangkaew has tendered two apologies and that she has apologized to those who she has harmed. More than two weeks have passed since then, but I have yet to receive an apology for the untruths she spread about me and her attempt to destroy my reputation.

There are those who say that we must forgive and forget and move on, but this is one case where we cannot simply forget. In the time since I learned of the accusations that were being leveled against me, I found out that this was not the first time RH had tried to destroy someone’s reputation. I also found out about her long history of abusive behaviour carried out under a variety of names.

Finding out about the stories of other victims has made me realize that to keep silent would be to do them a great disservice. The incident that took place between Alex, RH and myself was not pleasant, but there are those who have been silenced far longer by fear, there are those who have been ostracized and left out of conversations, there are those who have been shoved aside, dismissed and devalued.

I consider myself very lucky. It is with great thanks to friends and fellow travelers that I am still in the field. It is with thanks, first of all to Elizabeth Bear, that I found the courage to tell my story. It is with thanks to the work of Laura Mixon-Gould that I was able to see that I was not alone and that what happened to me was not a random individual incident. It is with thanks to Nalo Hopkinson’s words that I was able to start healing. It is with thanks to many in this field that I was able to keep hold of hope and belief.

To say that all RH did was to utter words is a complete denial of what we are as writers. Words have power, and words wielded in hatred and violence are just has harmful as violence dealt out with fists.

It is clear to me that RH has made use of her words to create schisms and divisions. She created an atmosphere of distrust and fear. By her actions, she has harmed many who chose to put their trust in her.

I still have no wish to harm RH. However, I do believe that it is only right that people be warned. I don’t doubt that RH has herself been a victim of stalking, but this does not excuse her harmful behavior. That she has tendered her apologies does not mean that she can be so quickly absolved, neither does it mean that we do not need to warn others about her.

I also believe that our duty is first of all to her victims. We need to respect the rights of these victims to a safe space where they can speak out and finally find healing.

**Again to be clear, I am not interested in a blacklisting of RH. The facts speak for themselves. RH has apologized. If writing gives her joy and fulfilment, I think she should continue to do so.

**I do call out Alex Dally MacFarlane for her actions. Social justice is not carried out by tearing down people or passing judgment on others. Social Justice is carried out in public spaces where open and free debate may take place.

**It’s also been pointed out to me that it’s racist for a white person to call out a brown person on how they deal with racism.

 **Comments on this blog are closed. Those who do wish to speak in support of those who have been at the receiving end of RH’s actions may do so at Laura Mixon-Gould’s blog.

quick update

A quick post this time to signal-boost a new anthology series being put out by Aqueduct Press. The Year’s Illustrious Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy is a reprint anthology that’s taking recommendations now. Please follow the links to the recommendation form.

Last week I published a fantastic Process Conversation with Kai Ashante Wilson. Kai is a fellow Butler scholar and I’m very pleased to feature him on the book blog.

Recent incidents have made me think of how important it is to be more mindful as well as vigilant. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of believing that our work is not valued and that we cannot make a difference, but if we reach out to those who are within our circle, it’s possible to create small movements that lead to wider change. I always want to reach for better and it makes me happy to see people growing into their full potential.

My own work is moving into more challenging arena. I acknowledge that it’s probably not all that accessible to readers who are used to narratives patterned after the dominant paradigm. It’s scary but I’ve always had this belief that if something is meant to be read or shared or published, then it will be regardless.

On a very surprised note, my father said to me this week that Song of the Body Cartographer is his most favorite of all the work that I’ve done. It was so not the story I expected him to praise. I am pleasantly surprised and feeling very encouraged as well.

My heart: Your heart: Our words

The past few months have been very stressful and difficult months for me. Not only because I had to deal with health issues, but also because I could feel hostility from places that I had once considered safe. Friends who I had trusted chose to question me. People who I believed in turned their backs on me and left my side. It is only natural to feel pain when these things happen.

My first reaction is to defend myself in anger. To tell the world that I am not guilty and it is those who have chosen to throw my name out into the open who are to be blamed. I had, in fact, already written such a post.

But I am also deeply aware of what goes on in my heart, and I am thankful for the friends who lift me up and remove me from that place that demands vengeance and justification. People have questioned my friendship with certain white people and made this a reason to pass judgment on me.

I want to say: It is easy for us to pass judgment on others. If we hear a story on the wind that seems to contain the smallest kernel of truth, we are liable to think: Oh, it must be true.

But in the course of my journey, I have arrived at this point where I choose not to judge on hearsay. I choose not to judge on what has been reported to me or what the wind brings to my ears. Rather than passing judgment, I choose to know and to believe with my heart.

I think that brown women from third world nations understand what it is like to be judged. We know what it’s like to be judged by the color of our skin, by the country we come from, by the way we speak, by the way we act and even by what we carry on our persons.

It is because I know exactly what it’s like to be judged because I am a dark skinned Filipino that I choose not to judge people by the color of their skins. It is because I know what it’s like to be shut out of conversations that I choose to include others in my conversations.

If you are reading this post, I want to ask you to examine yourself and to examine your own heart. To examine ourselves and to own the truth about ourselves is not weakness.

When I was still a child, I became aware of the power that rests in words and how it was possible to use words to move people either to tears or to anger—to love or to hate. I also became aware how by using words in a certain way, it is possible to sway people and to make them see my side of things as being the only right side in any conflict.

Today, more than then, I am very much aware how words wielded with cruelty and powered by malice have the capacity to destroy the person on the receiving end of those words. So, when I see people excusing words wielded cruelly as being just words, I cannot help but wonder if they truly understand just how a word in the hands of the wielder can break a spirit or strengthen it—how words can bind us together or tear us apart.

I know exactly what it’s like to be at the receiving end of words meant to make you feel so small that you want nothing more than to crawl away and vanish from the face of the earth. For this reason, I do not wish to wield words in that way. I do not wish to use my words to destroy, to belittle, or to question the humanity and the heart of others.

I have been judged for many things. Among these things, I have been judged for my choice to remain friends with people others deem as not being the “right sort” of people.

But you see, in the time since I started my decolonization journey I have changed from the person I was. I see with different eyes and I look with different eyes at people. I have been called naive for my choice to continue to trust and believe in the goodness that rests in the hearts of white people. But this is my choice. Just as it is my choice to believe in the goodness that rests in all of our hearts. I choose not to see myself as being of more worth than a white person but rather, I choose to see myself as being of equal worth.

We are all prone to failure. If I distance myself because people fail, I would be left standing alone—bereft of family, without a single friend.

It is because I see and acknowledge my own flaws that I can see clearly the flaws of those I love and love them still. I know what it’s like to be judged, so I choose not to judge. Instead, I choose to welcome those who welcome me. I choose to see the good in the hearts of those who see the good in me.

It doesn’t mean that I no longer see injustices or that I am not angry about them. I am still angry and I am still capable of great rage—but when it comes to people, I choose not to dwell in anger, I choose not to dwell in hate.

Ask yourself this question: how do you choose to wield your words and who do you destroy when you choose to tear down and destroy the other?

Adding this note as it has been pointed out to me that my post could be misread on certain things. So to make things clear:

(1) I do not condone any abusive behavior towards anyone.

(2) I am not aware of and I do not condone whisper attempts or any attempts to blacklist or blackball any writers.

Angry Brown Woman Mode

Recently, I’ve been the recipient of confusing messages telling me I’ve disappointed people or they’re disgusted with me and all sorts of rot. Perhaps the message that takes the cake is the one where I’m accused of wanting to ruin the careers of SEA writers. WTF.

So, let me answer the burning question in everybody’s mind. Not that the yeah-yeah crowd really cares to hear to the truth. But here it is: I DID NOT OUT BENJANUN SRIDUANGKAEW.

Do you need bigger letters?

NEVER in any point in time did I say to Tricia Sullivan or Liz Williams: Look here, I’ve got a juicy secret: Benjanun Sriduangkaew is Requires Hate.

In fact, Tricia Sullivan said to me that she already knew that Benjanun Sriduangkaew was Requires Hate (not that I didn’t already know it) but I’ve never referred to them as the same person in conversation. By that time though, the secret was sort of an open secret. I wouldn’t be surprised if half the publishing world didn’t already know. Certainly, Benjanun didn’t hide who she was from certain editors and she told me at one time that she’d also told others. What Tricia did with what she knew is not my responsibility.

But what about that blogpost written by your friend, I hear you ask. I have no idea. I’m betting Tricia was tired and upset and a combination of both makes for unclear blogposts. I know because yesterday, I was writing a blogpost but it was all vague and unclear and it looked like I was apologizing for things I didn’t do. Well, I’m not bloody apologizing because the only thing that I did was support people and trust in them.

I supported RH when she wanted to write because I believed writing would be good for her. Why not turn all that rage to writing instead? That I’m now accused of outing her after I’ve repeatedly told her that I am not interested in outing her is quite beyond me. You figure it out because I don’t want to.

Yesterday, I was feeling tired and disillusioned. Heart-weary and ready to throw the towel in. I saw the women of color who were losing faith, I saw those who were vulnerable wondering why and how we could allow the community to be torn apart like this. How can we dismiss that? How can we ignore those voices?  How can we call ourselves vehicles of change or proponents of social justice if we forget the most vulnerable among us?

Yesterday, I was a wimp. Today, I’m a bloody fighting angry brown woman. I care about people goddammit. People have always been my priority. Cultivating and encouraging writers, building up their confidence, helping up their visibility as much as I can–that’s what I love to do the most. If you’re only interested in your agenda of carrying out vendettas and petty wars, I don’t want to be in your corner.

Thinking things through: Your story and the change you bring with you

My online presence has been rather erratic as I’ve been having difficulties getting online. I waffled quite a bit about posting anything as it takes time to write a post and then it takes time to wait for connection to stabilize enough for me to publish the post. But what the heck. I’m here and I have time.

Thinking things through has helped me a lot, not only on the decolonization journey, but it’s also helped me to come to a deeper and better understanding of what’s needed if we are to create an environment that’s conducive to diversity. The question isn’t just a matter of getting people in the door, but what I’m concerned about is how to continue to nurture and support these writers so they don’t burn out, don’t feel isolated, don’t feel that they are a voice shouting in the wild that no one listens to. Nothing is more hurtful to the vulnerable spirit than to feel like you’re shouting into a vacuum.

It’s easy for me to say to a writer working in solitude that I hear their voice, but I think the writer needs much more than this. The writer needs to know that there is room for their work. I am of the belief that where you publish and how you publish all depends on what you want to achieve with what you write. If you want to become rich on writing, er…I think you may have chosen the wrong field. If you want recognition…again…er…wrong field. But if you want to write because you have this passion in you and you are bubbling over with things that you want to say to the world, there is no limit to what you can do and to who you can reach. Yes, believe me. There is no limit.

The point of diversity work is to make space so diverse voices can be heard. Not just one, not just two, but a variety of and a multiplicity of voices. I don’t believe there is one authoritative voice. There’s none. We all have very different stories and we all tell them very differently. I said this to a bunch of friends one time, it’s not a question of who rises the fastest or who shines the brightest–the thing is, we all rise at the kind of speed that we need to rise. We all shine as we were meant to shine. It’s not a competition and the awards are not the end goal. Someone once said that we change the world one story at a time. I think this is true. The story you bring with you is a story that will touch and change those in your sphere of influence. The question is: what kind of story do you bring with you? What kind of change are you bringing?

This may sound a little bit floaty, but I did want to share a dream that I had last night. It’s a dream that I believe speaks to the feeling that we all feel at one point or another. In my dream, I saw a group of women who had been cast out to sea in a little boat. They had been sailing and looking for land for quite sometime. Each time they sighted land, they would cheer and rejoice only to be devastated when they discovered that it was nothing more than an illusion. At the moment when they were about to give up, they saw an island in the distance. They looked at the island and they didn’t want to believe that it was real. They’d seen too many illusions and had been disappointed too many times. It wasn’t until their boat drew closer and closer to the island that they realized it was no dream. There before them was a beautiful stretch of beach and beyond that foliage. It was a vibrant country filled with color and life. It was a resting place.

I’m sharing this dream for no reason other than I felt that it was a good time to share it. I think that we all long for a paradise and we all long for a place where we can rest our heads. Don’t give up, it’s not yet the end of the journey.

Thinking things through: lessons learned on the journey

Yesterday, I joined the chairman of the board of the org I work for at an event hosted by Stichting ZAMI. I had been cloistered in the house for quite a while and have been finding it difficult to leave the safety of my four walls, so she had to practically force me to get a ticket and go with her. Well, she didn’t drag me out of the house, but an older Filipina woman who is like family can be forceful in ways that don’t require any physical exertion.

In the end, I was glad that I went along with her because not only did I get to meet twitter buddy and all around awesome woman, Nancy Jouwe, but I also got to meet a whole bunch of awesome women. The conversations were positive and uplifting and listening to the speeches, the panel discussion and just engaging in conversation with these women was so inspiring and heartwarming that I came home feeling energized and strengthened and also more able to face the ugly truths about my own self.

I was most moved by Fatima Elatik‘s closing speech where she told us about her own experiences in the political arena. She reminded us, that facing the truth about ourselves, acknowledging our own weaknesses and embracing those weaknesses make us stronger. I had been feeling very badly about my lack of insight and about the fact that I’d allowed myself to ignore and break my own principles in certain matters and I had been beating down on myself a lot, but Fatima said: What else can you do? You just have to acknowledge that you have weaknesses. You’re not perfect. You’re only human. You fail. The important thing is to realize that the fails you did were things from yesterday and then you have to move on. You have to understand that the work you’re doing and the work you’ve undertaken to do is more important than the fact that people are talking about you and not everyone likes you.

I’m still digesting and processing everything I’ve heard and a lot of it jives with the readings I’ve done on the babaylan and the babaylan spirit. One of the women shared the UBUNTU philosophy which I really want to look more into. I believe that the way forward is not by shutting out people. I believe that the way forward is in working together. If we are to reach that better place of being, we all need to work together and move forward together

Looking at the way the system works ( particularly in publishing ), I don’t believe that gatekeepers are there to keep out diverse works or that gatekeepers aren’t interested in diverse work. One speaker said that it was to us to figure out our position in relation to the system. Gatekeepers don’t know how to do diversity work, but we who know how to do the work need to keep doing our work. We need to keep raising our voices on the need for diversity, but (and in particularly this is for PoC and non-western folks) we need to strategize in order for the system to work for us.

So, how do we do that? We do that by creating work that cannot be ignored. What are the things that we carry with us that will show the industry that they are the ones who need us? Instead of begging for scraps, we need to stand firm and take control of ourselves and of our work. We show them what we can contribute and how we can contribute towards building a system that is truly diverse and inclusive.

This is our work. Publishing our work brings something to the publishing industry that it didn’t have before. Diversity brings color and life to the book industry. Diverse work enriches readers because through reading about places and cultures that they don’t have access to, readers learn to be more understanding. Books teach us many things. They tell us stories that help us empathize with people from places we’ve never been to. Hopefully they teach us to be more mindful of each other and more understanding of the fact that despite our best intentions, we are all still human and we need each other on this journey.

More than ever, I’m convinced that we don’t need to adjust or apologize for the stories we tell or for how we tell them. These are narratives that the world needs. We tell them our way because no one has heard them told the way we tell those stories. Publishing needs us more than we need them and the way I see it, it’s up to us to make ourselves visible and show publishing that they just can’t go on without the presence of a diverse list of writers coming from different cultures and different places around the world.

Keep sending those stories out and keep writing them. You can do it.